La Cité des 4,000 in La Courneuve. Photo posted on Flickr by "Linkef".
A police van travelling through the north Paris suburb of La Courneuve came under fire from Kalashnikov automatic rifles on Sunday. Luckily, no-one was hurt.
The use of AK-47s against police officers takes violence in the Parisian suburbs to a new high. In response to the attack, a company of the notorious CRS riot police and around 40 extra officers were sent to the area to reinforce the local forces. Two of our Observers - a resident and a police officer working in La Courneuve - give their views on the deteriorating situation.
“You only have to go downtown to get hold of war artillery”
Eric Wernert, 34, is a police officer in the district of Seine-Saint-Denis, of which La Courneuve is a district.
We've run out of ideas, we've hit rock bottom - that's what we're saying to each other. It's no longer a problem of urban violence, we're talking about organised crime now. Either we shelter from attacks and face derision, or we go one further in with the violence. We'd like to know how these kind of weapons circulate; you only have to go downtown to get hold of war artillery - that's the reality. This attack has taken things a step further in terms of violence. The officers who work in this district know the risks of their trade. But it doesn't mean you don't get scared and frustrated. Some of us are asking ourselves whether it's worth getting fired at by AK-47s for a salary of 1,600 euros a month. We shouldn't cut staff numbers like the Interior Minister wants to. What we want is that our job is recognised as a dangerous one - which is not the case at present."
“La Courneuve is not Chicago”
Didier Muller, 51, has lived in La Courneuve since 1999. He's president of "Faites la Ville", a local activities and events association.
The violence is clearly escalating. We've gone past the point of knife fights. Let's hope it stops here. While many other areas of France have black markets, we don't understand how they manage to get hold of the kind of weapons they do here. How long is this police presence going to go on for? A few days? Putting riot police on the streets for a week is not going to solve the problem. There's a brand new police station in the city centre, but it remains closed because there's not enough money.
It really is a shame that the efforts made by the local council are punctuated by a few violent blunders made by the police. The people here want to live peacefully. La Courneuve is not Chicago, it doesn't only comprise of La Cité des 4,000 [a city in the area often talked about the press]. We have detached housing too. We're capable of living together, diverse as we are. We organise events here and they go perfectly well."